Down on the Farm: Early Playoff Edition


Look, guys, I don’t blame you if you’re a little tired of hearing about the poor play from the Big League Club lately. We’re getting a little tired of it ourselves, if I can be honest.

So we’re taking a break from the negative nonsense today to bring you some quick news hits from a group of ballplayers whose dreams have not yet been crushed by injuries, losing streaks or whiny media-types. I’m talking about the Minor League affiliates of the Milwaukee Brewers, of course.

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (A – Midwest League)

Fear not, Brewers fans – a Wisconsin baseball team will be making the playoffs.

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers beat the Clinton Lumberkings 3-1 in extra innings to clinch the first-half Championship of the Midwest League. Will West started the game and did not recieve a decision in five innings of one-run, six hit ball with three strikeouts. Jacob Barnes fanned a career-high nine Lunberkings on his way to a win in five innings of relief work. He would give up just one hit.

At the beginning of the week, it was apparent that no matter the outcome of this week’s games, both the Beloit Snappers (37-29) and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (43-23) would be heading to the playoffs – but two straight extra inning victories secured the first-half title for the T-Rats.

It’s the first time the Timber Rattlers will play playoff baseball since 2005, when they were an affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. If you’re wondering, all the ticket prices remain the same – so you can sit behind home plate for ten bucks. No word yet on whether dollar beer night is planned for the playoffs.

In other T-Rats news, seven players were named to the MWL All-Star Game:

Greg Hopkins 2B (Starter)

Jason Rogers (Reserve)

Yadiel Rivera (Reserve)

Drew Gagnon (P)

Seth Harvey (P)

Tommy Toledo (P, and yes, that is his real name)

Mark Williams (P)

In our last bit of Timber Rattler news today, it appears that Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium (the mouthful of a name for the T-Rats home ballpark) is getting a major facelift for the 2013 season.

Appleton Professional Baseball – the ownership group that oversees the Milwaukee Brewers Affiliate – has secured $5.5 Million dollars to update the facilities that have been in place since 1995. According to the Timber Rattlers website, plans include renovating the entrance and team store, adding restrooms and concessions and replacing the facade of the stadium.

Fox Cities Stadium will also expand the seating, by adding a second level of club seats and suites above the press box behind home plate. The club level will also have facilities that can be used for group outings throughout the year. The changes come after reviewing attendance spikes – near 25% – since the team has become affiliated with the Brewers.

Brevard County Manatees (Advanced A, Florida State League)

Unfortunately, not everything is going so well throughout the Brewers Minor League system. The Sea Cows find themselves in last place of their division at 27-37, a scant 14 games off the division lead.

Despite that bad news, there are a few bright spots from the boys at Space Coast Stadium. Florida State League managers announced their All-Star rosters this week, and two Manatees have earned a spot among the North Division roster.

Second Baseman Shea Vucinich (.233 BA, 4 HR, 21 RBI) made the team as a reserve, most likely because he hit .302 in May with a slugging percentage over .400. It is the first All-Star selection for the second-year Sea Cow. Also making the team was the Manatee closer, Casey Medlen. Medlen is 2-4 this year, and has converted nine of 11 saves so far for Brevard County. His record is deceiving, and the managers rightly picked him for the team – he has 36 K’s to just six walks in 27 innings of work.

If you’re wondering how last year’s top pitching draftees for the Brewers are doing, Taylor Jungmann is currently 5-4, with a 3.78 ERA. He has won three of his last four outings.

Former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket Jed Bradley is not faring as well as his counterpart, having lost two of his last four games. He hasn’t won a decision since May 8th, and currently sits with a record of 4-5 and an earned run average of 4.38.

 Huntsville Stars (AA – Southern League)

The stars are still in second place in the Northern Division, despite falling to 33-33 on the heels of an eight game losing streak heading into the All-Star break. But not all the news is so dismal, as five Stars were selected to play in the All-Star Game.

First baseman Hunter Morris made the team, helped by his team leading seven homers and 40 RBI’s. Second baseman (and site favorite) Scooter Gannett also got an All-Star nod. Scooter has played in all 66 of Hunstville’s games and leads the team with a .307 batting average and a very flashy glove in the infield.

Three pitchers were also selected for the game, including Tyler Thornburg. Thornburg is 8-1 on the year, with 71 K’s and an ERA of only 2.69. Thornburg has given up only 25 run in 75 innings of work and I want him to be on the Brewers so bad.

Starter Evan Anundsen also made the Northern Division squad, and is having an impressive year at 4-2 with a 2.32 ERA. He threw the only Southern League so far this year on June 3rd, going seven innings and allowing only two hits. Last, but certainly not least, is closer Jesus Sanchez. Sanchez has converted all of five of his save opportunities this year, and he’s only allowed 36 runners on in just over 37 innings of work. Not bad for a guy who used to be a catcher.

 Nashville Sounds (AAA – Pacific Coast League)

Nashville is hanging tough in their division of the Pacific Coast League, but there is little hope of the success of their counterparts in the lower Minor League ranks. The Sounds are 26-41 right now, in third place but a lowly 16 games out of the division lead. Despite that rather awe-inspiring deficit, there is reason to keep your eye on the AAA affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.

One of them just happens to be Marco Estrada, who is beginning a series of rehab starts with the Nashville squad on his route to being re-activated to the Major League club. His first start will be on Sunday, and there is a plan for one more before getting him ready to return to Milwaukee around June 26th.

The Sounds have also added two new players to the roster in hopes of improving the team’s slouching numbers. One of them just happens to be former Major Leaguer Jay Gibbons.

Gibbons played seven years with the Baltimore Orioles, with a career .267 average and 127 home runs, before he was released from the team after appearing the Mitchell Report. He spent three years out of baseball before returning to the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2010-2011 seasons. He joined Nashville in May, and is currently hitting .158 in a slow start with limited playing time.

The other new addition in Jordan Brown, who likewise joined the team last month. The 28 year-old is hitting .268 for the club with five home runs and 14 runs batted in. Brown spent 26 games in the Major Leagues in 2010 with the Cleveland Indians, where he hit .230 with seven doubles and two RBI’s.

As a parting note, and probably our only real sour note on the farm system – if you’re wondering how poorly the Sounds are hitting in 2012, current Brewer disappointment Brooks Conrad is still leading the team in home runs and RBI’s.

That does it for this edition of Down on the Farm. I suggest you all get your Timber Rattlers tickets post-haste, it might be some of the best baseball in Wisconsin right now.